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March 26, 2009
Inzamam-ul-Haq and up to seven disaffected members of the Lahore Badshahs ICL franchise are in discussions with an American entrepreneur who hopes to establish an international Twenty20 tournament in New York City.
Inzamam confirmed to Cricinfo that he had received an approach from Jay Mir, the president and CEO of American Sports And Entertainment Group Inc, who has drawn up plans for a six-team American Premier League, to be staged in October on a converted baseball field in Staten Island, NYC.
"He has made an offer to us, but we have a contract with the ICL, and if our ICL contract allows us, then we will sign with the APL," said Inzamam. "It is a new venue, and it would be exciting to play in America. Someone has given us an offer, but when we see our ICL contract, then we will sign. Hopefully there will be no problem."
Other players in the frame for the competition include Imran Nazir, Imran Farhat and Mohammad Asif, who has no ICL affiliations, but whose career has been in limbo ever since he was arrested in Dubai last year on drug-smuggling allegations. One man who is not on the APL wish-list, however, is Mohammad Yousuf, who would almost certainly make an instant return to the Pakistan side if he managed to cut his ties with the ICL.
"If someone is playing for Pakistan then I don't know what the position of the player is in his contract with the PCB, but for other players it is free to sign with anyone," said Inzamam. "It is not an official tournament because it is not ICC-recommended. If there is a contracted player, they may have a problem, but ICL players should be free to sign."
An ICL official told Cricinfo that the league's contracts allow its players to play in other tournaments as long as there is no clash of commitments.
Mir, 32, has lined up a three-year staging deal with the minor-league baseball team, Staten Island Yankees. Using a franchise and auction system similar to the IPL, he hopes to draw up six "international" sides - Premium Pakistan, Premium Indians, Premium West Indies, Premium World and Premium America - the final side drawn from the best of the talent on show from approximately 15 million cricket fans who already live in the USA. A spokesman for the Yankees confirmed that they were in talks, adding that they were "very excited" at the prospect of bringing cricket to the city.
"It is a cricket revolution in America," Mr Mir told Cricinfo. "The venue is an absolute fit for the historic nature of this event. It has a capacity of approximately 10,000 spectators and has state-of-the-art facilities, and every spectator can view the beautiful Manhattan skyline, the Statue of Liberty and the Hudson River from their seat."
Mir added that he had lined up an agent in England who would help recruit players for the World XI, and that he had been in negotiations with the former West Indies captain, Richie Richardson, whom he hopes will act as both a coach and a recruiter for a potential West Indies team.
"I'd be happy to get involved in cricket in the US because there's a big market," Richardson told Cricinfo. "I know a lot of former West Indies players in particular feel a need to help promote cricket in the US, because we believe that if cricket can be developed there it can help cricket in the region and this part of the world. We're very keen to do whatever we can to help."
John Aaron, the secretary of USACA, offered a cautious reaction to the news of the tournament. "USACA has no affiliation whatsoever, nor was its blessing sought in promoting the tournament," Aaron told Cricinfo. "The entrepreneurial sprit is alive and well in the USA, therefore many individuals continue to seek opportunities to arrange events such as the one described.
"USACA welcomes any and all forms of cricket development and promotion of the sport," he added, "whether it is under the auspices of the national organization or private individuals. That's what makes America great. However, I would hasten to add that October in New York is not the most ideal of weather conditions to have a cricket tournament, unless it is indoors."
"They are trying hard to develop cricket in the US," added Richardson. "It's not easy, but they are trying. They need to unite as much as possible though, because that's the only way they are going to get support from the ICC. It's a massive country, with so many associations, and the important thing is to form a national body that governs cricket properly."